Update: 19:58 | 13/09/2017
(BGO) – Located in Huyen Dinh mountain range, the Tay (Western) Yen Tu area in Bac Lung and Cam Ly communes of Luc Nam district is home to numerous vestiges of ancient pagodas reflecting the development of the Truc Lam Yen Tu Buddhist sect. Among them, Son Thap and Ma Yen were two ancient pagodas that are not widely known.
A stone lotus pedestal dating back to the Tran Dynasty.
Son Thap Pagoda, also known as Hon Thap Pagoda, lied at the foot of Mount Hon Thap and near Vuc Rieu (Reu Abyss). Its ground and traces can easily be found here, especially stone steps, pedestals that are 35cm in diameters, and parts of stone towers. Notably, some Chinese characters engraved on the body of a stone tower indicate that it was the last resting place of monk Phap Van, who used to lead this pagoda.
The pagoda ground is at the top of the three-level relic area paved with brown stones. The tower garden is behind the pagoda ground. The body and top parts of the time-damaged tower were moved to the pagoda ground. All relics found in the pagoda’s garden are bricks, broken tiles and ceramic pieces dating back to the Tran Dynasty, indicating that this Buddhist temple was built in the early 14th century under the Tran Dynasty.
It was also a destination in King-Monk Tran Nhan Tong’s religious life. This fact also matches what was written in the section on Tran Dynasty celebrities in the book “Dao giao Nguyen Luu”. The book reads that “The Tran King went eastwards, reached Son Thap Pagoda and stayed there” and then went to Yen Tu to practice Buddhism. As the ancient pagoda is no longer there, local people recently built a small temple on the old ground to serve as a destination for Buddhists.
Passing Son Thap Pagoda, visitors will reach Vuc Rieu (Rieu Abyss) waterfall – a scenic landscape in Huyen Dinh mountain range. The strong water flow created a deep abyss that is up to 10 square meters wide. Reu Abyss is considered a natural bathtub of the Huyen Dinh mountain and forest.
From the waterfall, visitors can go for about 3.4km, climbing countless cliffs and rocks which will give them an adventurous feeling, to reach Mount Ma Yen. They can also follow a 4km track through the mountain to come to Mount Ma Yen.
People said that as the shape of this mount resembles a saddle, it is called Ma Yen (horse saddle). It is where a lot of vestiges of an ancient pagoda named Ma Yen were discovered. This area is also known as Ho Chua by local residents. The pagoda with many big structures is believed to be constructed by Monk Phap Loa.
The pagoda ground covers hundreds of square meters and was divided into many levels paved with brown stones. The round wall of the pagoda’s well was also built with stones. At the pagoda’s main area, which was possibly the ground of the Triratna hall, there remain a number of carefully carved rectangular stone blocks that are 70cm long, 40cm wide and 15cm thick on average. There can also be found lotus petal-shaped roof tiles from the Tran Dynasty in the relic site. Notably, there is a stone lotus pedestal of the Tran Dynasty in the right of the Triratna hall. Those are traces of the ancient pagoda.
Son Thap and Ma Yen pagodas in the west of Yen Tu Mountain were two famous scenic places under the Tran Dynasty that witnessed the development of the Truc Lam Yen Tu Buddhist sect. Although the original pagodas and landscapes no longer exist, their vestiges still reflect the great size of these structures and mark a prime era of the Truc Lam Yen Tu Buddhist sect.
Dong Ngoc Duong